All Generalizations Are False, Including This One
by Marydee Ojala
It’s wonderful how people generalize. All librarians
wear their hair in a bun and delight in shushing people.
Everyone in the mainstream media is a liberal. All
bloggers are journalists. No one finds relevant information
using Google. All generalizations are false, including
I spent last week at Computers in Libraries (CIL)
and several days this week at the Indiana Library Federation
(ILF) annual conference. I didn’t see a single “librarian” hairdo
at either event. Nor did anyone shush me. In fact,
librarians can be downright rowdy and raucous. The
generalizations about mainstream media and bloggers
are actually two halves of a too-widely accepted misunderstanding.
During the last U.S. presidential campaign, it appeared
that bloggers on the left saw their writings as the
only antidote to the political right. Yet there are
conservative journalists in the mainstream media, and
although a few bloggers were given press credentials
to both the Republican and Democratic conventions (and
to CIL as well), that doesn’t mean the millions
of bloggers on the planet consider themselves journalists.
Journalists are worried about bloggers subverting
the power of the press and changing the face of the
news business. A blog post is faster than a newspaper
can print and a TV station can broadcast. Bloggers
can be excellent fact checkers. Dan Rather found that
out the hard way. I’m surprised librarians aren’t
as worried as journalists are. If you’re the
librarian responsible for the fact checking, and you
miss something, will a blogger prove to be a more competent
information professional than you are? When conducting
research, how many librarians routinely search a blog
search engine, such as Daypop, Feedster, or Technorati?
Do you include Google Groups in your resource toolbox?
What about the social networking tools such as Furl
(reviewed by Mary Ellen Bates on the last page of this
I know many information professionals who rely heavily
on RSS feeds to keep up. Even our premium content suppliers,
such as Factiva, are beginning to institute RSS feeds.
Equally, I know information professionals who dismiss
RSS as time wasters, adding to their information overload.
As Vivísimo’s Raul Valdes-Perez said March
1, 2005, at the NFAIS conference (blogged at www.infotodayblog.com),
the problem isn’t information overload; it’s
information overlook. When there’s too much data,
we overlook some of it. That’s what’s happening
with some of the new avenues and formats of information.
No one finds relevant information using Google. This
derives from comments made over the past 2 years, in
print, by the ILF keynote speaker, ALA president-elect
Michael Gorman. In his keynote, he made a comment about
all the “unusable hits on Google.” It elicited
knowing smiles from the librarian audience. Unfortunately,
it’s also wrong and silly. More people search
Googleand are satisfiedthan can find their
public library. Google’s IPO and rising stock
price show the public’s confidence in its search
algorithms. Libraries, on the other hand, struggle
for funds and to prove their relevance. Disrespecting
Google is counterproductive behavior for information
professionals. Denying credibility to technological
advances makes the profession look foolish and uneducated.
I won’t generalize that all technology is good.
It isn’t. Some, however, will be imperative in
moving the profession forward.
is the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters
to the editor to